By Chris Stone
San Diego’s new auxiliary bishop is known as a people person with an understanding of the region’s diverse languages and cultures.On Thursday, the Most Rev. John Dolan blessed priests, hugged nuns, showed his delight at the attendance of guests and laughed out loud with friends.
Dolan has a “tremendous pastoral sensitivity and sense of engagement with the diverse communities we have in the diocese,” said San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy after Dolan was ordained at St. Therese of Carmel Church in Del Mar Heights before 150 priests, bishops and cardinals.
The two-hour Mass witnessed by 1,000 was attended by Pope Francis’ Vatican ambassador to the United States — Papal Nuncio Christophe Pierre — and retired Cardinals William Levada of San Francisco and Roger Mahony of Los Angeles.
Also present were Los Angeles Archbishop José Gómez and former San Diego auxiliary Bishop Salvatore Cordileone.
“His interpersonal skills are quite high,” McElroy said of Dolan. “He is a man of real joy and faith. He is really respected and well-liked by both the lay leadership and the priests in the diocese.
“That will be a tremendous gift to us.”
His interpersonal skills were on full display as he spoke congenially with his fellow religious leaders and in his interactions with priests, nuns and parishioners as they had their photo taken with him at a reception following the ceremony.
His parents were asked his best quality.“His sense of humor,” Catherine and Jerry Dolan of Linda Vista told Times of San Diego.
Dolan’s humor was on display during his remarks, when he looked toward his parents and said, “Is my mitre on straight, Mom?”
When detailing his “born and raised here” pride in San Diego, he said: “I love the beach. I love the city. I love the Padres. I love the Chargers. Well, I love the Padres.”
Said his mother: “He loves people. He’s always good with people. John just needs to be John.”
His father added: “I thought it was a great celebration. Of course, we are very proud of him. He’ll be a good bishop.”
McElroy also said of Dolan: “He has been a pastor of large parishes and small parishes, parishes with different challenges and parishes that are demographically extremely diverse and has done quite well with that.“He has learned the languages and the cultures in each of these places. I think he will be particularly good that way,” he said.
Dolan gave a bilingual address, first speaking in Spanish, in a ceremony live-streamed on the web.
It was a particularly special day for Dolan. Aside from his ordination and installation as a auxiliary bishop, it was his 55th birthday with his parents and godparents from his baptism in attendance.
Toward the end of the ceremony, McElroy led the attendees in singing “Happy Birthday” to Dolan.
Dolan said neither McElroy nor the papal nuncio knew it was his birthday when it was scheduled, but “it was pretty awesome.”
A Clairemont native, he was educated in local Catholic schools — St. Mary Magdalene parish and University High School — before attending St. Francis Seminary and the University of San Diego, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He continued his studies at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, where he earned master’s degrees in divinity and theology.He was ordained a priest July 1, 1989, by Bishop Leo T. Maher, and has served as a priest in the Diocese of San Diego for nearly 28 years.
He began as an associate pastor at St. Michael’s parish in Paradise Hills before serving at Santa Sophia in Spring Valley, St. Rose of Lima in Chula Vista, St. Mary Star of the Sea in Oceanside and St. Michael’s parish in Poway.
Most recently, he served as pastor at St. John the Evangelist and St. Vincent de Paul parishes in Hillcrest and Mission Hills.
In his new role, Auxiliary Bishop Dolan will serve as Moderator of the Curia and Vicar for Clergy at the Pastoral Center, where he will assist McElroy in administering the diocese and overseeing the assignment of priests and clergy at 98 parishes.
The Catholic Diocese of San Diego serves more than 1.3 million Roman Catholics in San Diego and Imperial counties. It includes 98 parishes and 49 elementary and secondary schools.
Asked what he most wanted to contribute to the diocese, Dolan said, “Most importantly, a love for the people from the heart of Christ to the people of God. That’s the bottom line.
“That’s all I want to do — just love them. And it doesn’t matter who it is. They have to know that they are loved by God.”
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: